St. Therese believed that the people of her time lived in too great a fear of Gods judgment. I suppose in our world, we live in great fear of the judgments of political leaders, and the many hordes of people on social media who live to mind our business. We tremble before the Gods of Facebook and Twitter, and the deepening idea that we must dislike what we disagree with.
A French Carmelite Nun, St. Therese preached and practiced a kind of love, simplicity and spirituality. She is one of those religious figures that have something important to tell us, her beliefs seem so appropriate for our time.
She found a way to take our aspirations to be better – our better sides if you will – and apply that to the small things, the everyday tasks of our lives.
We live where there is a lot of judgement, anger, perpetual outrage and conflict. A world awash in anger and greed and judgment mistreats all life forms, human, plant or animal. Every day, I confront people who are learning to hate what they don’t understand or agree with. Each one, I see is a path to the little way, learning to be civil, to move along, to stand in my truth.
Our media and political systems have become toxic and disturbing. Our political leaders are dispiriting and selfish. We are challenged every day to look within ourselves and find ways to be positive and grounded and uplifting. I love St. Therese’s idea of practicing the “little way” of love. In her life, she worked every day to not miss out on a kind world or gesture, including a smile, or any other act that suggested peace and friendship.
I think of my own translation of the little way: cutting up a credit card, smiling to people on the street, letting others have the right of way, taking a lovely photo, teaching a dog how to live in the world, telling my wife how much I appreciate her, smiling at every cashier or waitperson, encouraging the gifts of another person, being polite to a disembodied voice on the telephone, never speaking poorly of my life, doing any small thing to help heal Mother Earth.
St. Therese believed that fear and judgement are stifling, and that spirituality was about letting go, accepting others. It is about small acts of understanding. Like everyone else in the world, I deal with failure, anger, confusion and arrogance all the time. I doubt I will ever be completely free of these things.
I will never be perfect, I have let go of that ambition. What I want is to to do the best I can for as long as I can.
St. Therese translated her “little way” as a commitment to the tasks and people we meet in our everyday lives. I will never get to do the big things that might change the world, to run a government, be read by millions of people, have a billion dollars to dispense.
But I can embrace St. Therese’s little way. Love is civic and political as well as personal. It is also environmental, it makes itself felt in every action that seeks to build a better world.